The most characteristic features of the French style are impeccable taste and sense of proportion. We talk with Michel Bonnet, Executive Director of the French Federation of Shoe Companies, about the feelings that French exhibitors have on the eve of the Russian shoe exhibition and the new ordering season.
- You are already holding the third French pavilion at MosShoes. What results of the first two do you consider the most important for yourself?
- In a difficult time from the economic point of view, the French Pavilion made it possible to favorably distinguish national companies. The best indicator of its success is the number of visitors who have focused their attention on the France pavilion and directly at the exhibitors' stands. The companies participating in the MosShoes exhibition for several years, for example, Mephisto or Samson, were able to start their activities in Russia in more favorable conditions. The goal of companies entering the Russian market now is to find an agent. And we are especially proud that Gep, which first came to MosShoes in March 2009, has already made promising contacts.
- What will be new this time? Are new participants appearing in the pavilion?
- It is worth paying attention to two new participants - Wapiti (the company will present its line of children's and teenage shoes, as well as “authentic” home shoes with extracts of lavender oil, aloe vera and bioceramic capsules) and TBS (this company produces both clothes and shoes for active recreation, including for yachting. Only in France it has 14 monobrands open). You will be able to look at new collections, as well as discover the mysterious world of French shoe fashion during the defile, which will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday, 29 and 30 of September.
- What is the mood of the exhibitors who can already be called permanent?
- With great hopes, based on the experience of last season. All participants understand that entering a new export market requires hard work and regular promotions before you can reap the benefits of commercial profit and customer loyalty. For our part, we very much hope that the difficulties in the Russian economy will be quickly resolved.
- We have data on the export of French shoes for the 2008 year: an increase in volume by 27%, an increase in the average price of the export price for a pair by 14%. Is there data on the first half of the 2009 year? Is the export structure changing?
- In 2008, the export of French shoes to Russia increased by 16% in value. Export of products of the high price segment and luxury to Russia grew not only in the 2008 year, but also in the first semester of the 2009 year, and the average price for a couple increased, although not by much. In 2008, sales of men's shoes made of genuine leather increased sharply, an increase of 84%.
At the moment, it is too early to summarize the first half of the year, I can only say that we are preparing for much less promising figures, focusing on the economic situation in Russia. But French manufacturers, despite the difficulties, will wait for the market to revive, and will certainly attend the presentation of the Spring-Summer 2010 and Autumn-Winter 2010 / 2011 collections.
- By what signs do you realize that the French Pavilion this time was a success?
- Of course, this is the number of visitors at the exhibition and in the France pavilion itself, but above all, it is the development of relations between French manufacturers and Russian buyers who started at the exhibition. At the end of each exhibition, we are sure to conduct a debriefing with the participants.
- What will be the main trends of the Spring-Summer 2010 season?
- “Desire” is a symbolic word for the spring-summer season. So, new shoe fashion trends can be expressed through the prism of many desires: this is an attempt to combine the incongruous - imagination and science - to create an innovative fashion; and the problem of particular sophistication in the embodiment of eternal beauty; a desire for exoticism and, finally, a dream of a simple and enchanting field fashion, suitable for urban use. So, French shoes presents four stories to your attention, according to the trends of the new season: Search for infinity, Scorching Sun, Perfect Beauty and, finally, Forest Poetry. You can find more detailed information on new trends in the French Style brochure, which the federation publishes with the fashion department of the Committee for Economic Development of the Technical Center for Leather Products.
- During the “fat” 2000s, the majority of Russian shoe factories did not have time to update production equipment, partly because of this, production volumes fall annually. What is the dynamics of shoe production in France now? How do you rate the level of technological support in France?
- In 2008, 31 million pairs were released. Most French shoe manufacturers had been re-equipped long before the 2000's. Some have chosen the way to transfer part of production to other countries.
The leather industry in France is equipped with the latest technology, has its own research center for conducting experiments and developing new technologies, as well as special technical equipment for the implementation of basic research and the application of innovative products.
- Shoe business in France - is it more a family business or factory production?
- Our federation includes 110 shoe manufacturers, most are small family firms, less than 50 workers. Only six largest enterprises employ more than two hundred people.
- What are the largest retail chains in France? What is the proportion of French shoes in them?
- Distribution networks and their affiliates account for 39% of the total market turnover, their specific part has increased significantly in 2007-2008. The international footwear market is best known for the Vivarte and Eram group of companies. French networks are concentrated mainly in Europe and are poorly represented in other regions. Some manufacturers also have their own networks, for example, Mephisto, JMWeston, Paraboot brand stores are open not only in France, but also abroad. For example, Mephisto has more than 800 points of sale worldwide.
- The federation will have a new president this year. What ongoing initiatives of the federation will it continue within the country and abroad? What's new in the areas of work?
- You are absolutely right, Mr. Jean-Pierre Renaudin, former president of MOD8, a company producing luxury children's shoes, was elected the new president of the federation.
An active export policy, as well as introducing French shoes to a wide range of buyers, have been the two main areas of the development strategy of the French Federation of Shoes over the past two years. This work will continue.
The Russian market is very important for us, which is why we decided that the federation should have its own plenipotentiary representative here. Since this year, the interests of the federation in Russia have been represented by Ekaterina Mamatova. We hope that it will become the very link that will unite Russian buyers and French manufacturers.
- France is the historical citadel of feminism. Do you think a woman shoes for herself or for a man?
- I would say that French women manage to choose the right shoes for every moment! Not only elegance, but also comfort, as well as the quality of shoes are the main selection criteria for a woman.
- Whose shoes could you name the reference example of the French style in shoes?
- For many years one of the most widely represented in the international footwear market, including in Russia, is the Robert Clergerie brand. Other well-known names can be named: Rautureau, Louboutin. At the last MosShoes exhibition, the federation presented to the attention of visitors a retrospective of the evolution of French style, prepared by the famous Paris stylist François Ascensio, who also organized a fashion show in the French Pavilion. I am sure that he will be able to tell you in more detail about the influence of French fashion designers on the shoe collections of the next season with great pleasure.
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